We won't turn our back on Gaddafi - Nelson Mandela

Speech by the then president on SA's friendship with the Libyan Leader, June 13 1999



Your Excellencies
Distinguished Guests
And My Dear Brother Leader

Those who dedicate themselves to causes affecting the lives of millions ought to have a clear understanding of history. They should plan their actions with a sense of their impact on those for whom they believe they act.

I know, My Brother Leader, that you and I, who have both been privileged and obliged by circumstance to be in such positions, have each in our own way tried to be true to that responsibility. Even so, we could not have planned things in such a way that you would be the last head of state I would officially receive on a bilateral basis before retiring from public office.

I am happy that it did, by chance, transpire this way.

The relationship between our two selves and between Libya and democratic South Africa has not been without controversy and therefore some special significance in world affairs.

As a responsible member of the international community of nations, South Africa would never defy predominant international opinion deliberately and merely for effect. This is a particular responsibility in a world that is fraught with possibilities of misunderstanding and consequent conflict and conflagration.

We remain convinced that respect for our multilateral bodies and compliance with their decisions, is crucial to stability, development and progress in a world still marked by tension, inequality and backwardness. This is so even where we may disagree as individual nations with those decisions.

In a world where the strong may seek to impose upon the more vulnerable; and where particular nations or groups of nations may still seek to decide the fate of the planet - in such a world respect for multilateralism, moderation of public discourse and a patient search for compromise become even more imperative to save the world from debilitating conflict and enduring inequality.

When we dismissed criticism of our friendship with yourself, My Brother Leader, and of the relationship between South Africa and Libya, it was precisely in defence of those values.

There must be a kernel of morality also to international behaviour. Of course, nations must place their own interests high on the list of considerations informing their international relations. But the amorality which decrees that might is right can not be the basis on which the world conducts itself in the next century.

It was pure expediency to call on democratic South Africa to turn its back on Libya and Qaddafi, who had assisted us in obtaining democracy at a time when those who now made that call were the friends of the enemies of democracy in South Africa.

Had we heeded those demands, we would have betrayed the very values and attitudes that allowed us as a nation to have adversaries sitting down and negotiating in a spirit of compromise. It would have meant denying that the South African experience could be a model and example for international behaviour.

In many ways, our modest contribution to resolving the Lockerbie issue will remain a highlight of the international aspects of our Presidency. No one can deny that the friendship and trust between South Africa and Libya played a significant part in arriving at this solution. If that be so, it vindicates our view that talking to one another and searching for peaceful solutions remain the surest way to resolve differences and advance peace and progress in the world.

We look forward with joy and anticipation to the full re-entry of Libya into the affairs of our continent and the world.

We have already seen Libya take up its role as an important actor on the African continent to help advance the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

South Africa is proud to acknowledge the coincidence between its own position and SADC's, on the one hand, and that of Libya on the other. We share the view that peace in the DRC can only be achieved through the withdrawal of all foreign forces and an inclusive political process of Congolese groups.

We appreciate very much Libya's indication that its own efforts will be co-ordinated with those of our regional organisation, SADC. This approach confounds those who suggest that Libya is less than fully committed to multilateralism. My Brother Leader is involved in the Congolese process as a facilitator of the SADC process, just as we were involved in the Lockerbie issue as facilitators for the United Nations. In such ways we advance the ideals of multilateral co-operation and discipline. And for that we thank our Brother Leader and the Libyan people.

It was with much appreciation that I received reports from my Minister of Trade and Industry about our recent trade delegation to Libya. The friendly political relations between our two countries are now being consolidated and deepened through trade. We look forward to South African companies and Libyan entities bridging our continent from North to South in concrete expressions of African unity.

My Brother Leader, I know that in the abstemious conditions of the North African desert it is not the custom to propose a toast. We are, however, overwhelmed by at last having here on this southern tip of Africa one of the revolutionary icons of our times.

I shall therefore take the liberty to invite our guests to rise and raise their glasses with me in salute to Muamar Qaddafi, our Brother Leader of the Revolution of the Libyan Jamahariya, and to growing friendship between the people of our two countries.

Issued by the Office of the President, June 13 1999

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